Is Tyreek Hill Just Another Cordarrelle Patterson?
In football, we've got a player comparison problem.
Tune in to any network during the NFL Draft, and you'll hear analysts saying one player is just like another from a previous year. Come to numberFire.com, and we'll have analysis on why a prospect looks just like a veteran player when he was his age.
Why? Because it's entertaining. And it's honestly helpful.
But it's also sometimes limiting.
That's what worries me about Tyreek Hill's situation entering the 2017 season. With Jeremy Maclin now out of the picture in Kansas City, Hill's got all the opportunity in the world to make an impact as a second-year receiver. He should see a good bit of volume in the Chiefs' offense. He should be -- now officially -- one of Alex Smith's favorite targets.
There's a déjà vu feeling here, though. Remember Cordarrelle Patterson?
Like I said, we've got a player comparison problem.
Similar Rookie Campaigns
Why is it that Tyreek Hill gives me -- and plenty of others -- a Cordarrelle Patterson feeling?
From a raw receiving standpoint, here's a look at Patterson's rookie 2013 campaign and Hill's first year, which came a season ago.
A decent rookie year market share? Check. A fairly inefficient yards per target rate? Check. A pretty good receiving touchdown total? Check.
All while these two rookies were catching balls through the air, they also were taking handoffs from their quarterbacks.
And they were also returning kicks.
That, really, is why the two are being compared so strongly. They're multi-purpose wide receivers who scored more touchdowns than they should have during their rookie seasons, making themselves strong regression candidates in Year 2.
That could be where the comparisons stop, though.
Reasons for Optimism
Forget about the rushing and kick (or punt, in Hill's case) return prowess for a second. Let's focus on receiving.
Hill and Patterson's box score numbers don't tell us the entire story. Shocking, I know.
When you break down how each wideout accumulated their numbers, Hill comes out as the obvious better receiver.
|Player||Yards/Target||Air Yards/Catch||aDOT||Reception NEP/Target||Success Rate|
If you're new to numberFire, that "NEP" in the table may make zero sense. It stands for Net Expected Points, and it's our way of determining how many real points a player is adding for his team given the down and distance and field position. For more on NEP, you can read our glossary.
The average Reception NEP (number of points a player adds on all catches) per target during 2013 (Patterson's rookie year) and 2016 (Hill's) was identical for wide receivers at 0.66. It's not shocking to see both players with lower-than-average scores considering their yards per target numbers were also below the norm.
Hill, though, was a good bit more efficient. Not just within our Net Expected Points metric (or Success Rate, which measures the percentage of positive plays made by a receiver), but by air yards, too. Despite an average depth of target (aDOT) that was just slightly greater than Patterson's, Hill was able to add more than an air yard per catch over C-Patt during his rookie season.
During Patterson's rookie season, 71.08% of his yards came after the catch. Among the 528 wide receiver seasons with 50 or more targets since 2011, that rate was fourth-highest.
Say it with me: it was unsustainable.
Hill's yards after the catch percentage sat at 48.57% last year, which is a high number, but still ranked 53rd from the top.
A big reason for that is the work Hill was able to do on deep passes, defined as throws that travel 15 or more yards through the air.
|Player||15+ Air Targets||15+ Rec||15+ Catch Rate||15+ Yards||15+ Yards %||15+ TD|
This is probably the best sign for Tyreek Hill as he moves into his second season. It's not as though his accumulation of yards stemmed solely from the fact that he took every short pass from Alex Smith to the house. He still did pretty good work down the field.
He was a more complete receiver.
Regression Was Obvious
A player who's bound to regress doesn't equate to a player who's bad.
It's true -- Tyreek Hill, entering his second year, won't be able to do the kinds of things he did in his first. Hill, for instance, scored a touchdown on every eight rushes his rookie season. Over the last half decade, a wideout has averaged a touchdown on every 30 rushes.
Hill probably won't keep up his receiving touchdown rate, either. According to his Net Expected Points profile, he should've scored closer to three touchdowns rather than the six he actually tallied last year.
But this simple idea of regression doesn't mean Hill will be an unusable fantasy football asset in 2017.
Hill may be overvalued come draft time. In fact, I'd expect it. The truth is, a lot of fantasy owners won't account enough for regression.
But he probably won't be another Cordarrelle Patterson, because he was a much better receiver in Year 1 than Patterson was.